As New Labour sucks up to McDonald's
'We're protesting in Brighton'
ON 30 September in Brighton thousands of protesters will tell Tony Blair that people should come before profit. The demonstration is for everyone outraged at the way the Labour Party conference is being sold to the highest corporate bidder, and at the McLabour policies that this government is pushing in Britain and internationally.
As the Labour Party conference begins, a carnival of colourful protest will gather and march to where the delegates are meeting. The protest will unite people who demonstrated outside the G8 in Genoa and people involved in local campaigns against cuts.
It takes place at the same time as the World Bank and IMF will face mass protest in Washington in the US. The Brighton protest will be led by effigies representing the deadly policies of George W Bush, and also by the trucks used by Brighton bin workers who struck successfully against privatisation.
We will be there to confront the policies of Tony Blair, the man who tours the world preaching the gospel of neo-liberalism. We will also reach out to the delegates who want to shift Labour policy against Son of Star Wars, against privatisation, and towards decent treatment of asylum seekers.
Socialist Worker talked to some of those who will be going to Brighton.
We fought privatisation and won
The refuse worker
GARY SMITH, a full time GMB union official, spoke to Socialist Worker in a personal capacity:
"OUR MEMBERS on the bins fought against the private firm Sita, who lost the council contract. This was a massive boost to trade unionists and has raised wider concerns about public services being run by unelected and unaccountable multinationals. We are deeply concerned that Brighton council will make the same mistake again. Private firms are already profiting from running the portering and cleaning services in Brighton's hospitals. The bin workers' fight won massive solidarity. Hundreds of people collected money-students, lecturers, the unemployed workers' centre and the trades council. Working people saw that trade union members stood up for themselves and fought back. The lesson people took away was that if we stand together we can win. In our branch one of the things that has been put up for discussion is producing 100,000 leaflets to deliver to every home in Brighton about the protest on 30 September."
Dismay inside Labour
The labour councillor
STEVEN COX is a Labour Party councillor in Dudley in the West Midlands. He actively supported the Dudley hospitals workers during their recent battle to stay within the NHS:
"I SUPPORT the protest in Brighton because I'm dismayed at what the Labour Party has become. The party was founded to alleviate the worst consequences of capitalism, but it has now become a tool of capitalism. The McDonald's sponsorship says it all really. There's been no movement away from Tory policies on trade union rights or privatisation. Inside the Labour Party people are clinging on in the hope that New Labour is only a passing phase. But if there is going to be any change, if the New Labour leadership is going to be toppled, then it will take mass action both inside the party and outside it. I hope that the Brighton protests can be part of that."
Carnival, theatre, art and music
LUCY ELLINSON is an activist in the anti-capitalist group Globalise Resistance:
"THE IDEA is to bring a sense of festival to the Brighton protest. Local theatre groups are involved. We are planning stuff that everyone can do together at the convergence point before the march starts-such as banner making and live music. We are organising a video tent to show footage from our international experiences of protest. Things like the campaign in Bolivia against water privatisation and This Is What Democracy Looks Like will be screened, along with footage which people are donating. People are being invited to donate photographs of previous events and protests, which we will display in a gallery. The word has gone out to uniformed workers like nurses and firefighters to turn up at the protests in their uniforms, as a visual way of showing why we are demonstrating at the Labour Party conference."
- HILARY THORNDYKE is an activist in the Brighton Collective:
"SPEAKERS FOR Globalise Resistance have addressed gigs to tell them about the protests and had a great response from a largely young audience. The demonstrations will bring everyone together in a positive way. We will be showing the opposition to privatisation and reaching out to Labour Party delegates who do not agree with the government's corporate agenda. There will be a carnival, theatre, art, sound systems and something for all ages."
Angry about the way asylum seekers treated
The GMB officer
JIM HIOM is the secretary of the GMB Milton Keynes City branch. He's organising support for the Brighton demo as a central part of an anti-privatisation campaign in the area. Speaking in a personal capacity, he told Socialist Worker:
"I WORK in local government and like everywhere else it's privatisation all the way. The fact that it's a Labour council doesn't seem to make the slightest difference-it's still profit that comes first. Until a couple of years ago I was a staunch member of the Labour Party. But I can't stomach it now. I can't stop as a member of a party when I don't agree with the great majority of what it does. My dad said in 1997 that he didn't trust this New Labour mob. I said that perhaps we ought to give them a few years to see what they'd be like. Well, my dad was right. Blair and his crew are wolves in sheep's clothing. They talk about a partnership, but it isn't a partnership between the public and government. It is all about money and working with money. They are left wing Tories and their vision of society is one where only the strongest survive. There are lots of reasons to be in Brighton on 30 September. Privatisation is number one perhaps, but I am also very angry about the way this government is following a policy of divide and rule over asylum seekers. It is exactly the same as the way that governments behaved in the past over black immigrants, over Jews, over Irish people. I hope that people who are still in the Labour Party will get involved in the protests."
We're organising local debates and protests
TANYA MURAT is a council worker in Southwark, south London:
"NEW Labour have just landed a sponsorship deal with the burger multinational McDonald's, which will be hosting a 15,000 reception party at the conference. We are council workers who have just set up a local Globalise Resistance group. We had already organised a protest outside the local McDonald's. We set up the group after our trade union, UNISON, sponsored a library worker to go to the Genoa protests. Workers wanted to debate and campaign. Some of the library workers in the council want to do a banner saying "Best Value equals cuts and poor services" to take along to Brighton."
THE BRIGHTON protest has become a focus for a campaign against NHS privatisation in Oxford. JOHN LISTER from the Oxfordshire Campaign Against Privatisation says:
"WE are challenging the plan to use private cash to finance the relocation of the Radcliffe Infirmary. Oxford East MP Andrew Smith, who is also the Treasury secretary, said there was no sign of any local opposition from trade unions to this PFI scheme. Well, he won't be able to repeat that in the future. We had an initial meeting at very short notice recently where around 30 members of public sector and other trade unions came together. We have a programme of action beginning with protest lobbies and a public meeting on 5 September. That will flow into taking people from Oxford to the demonstration in Brighton. There are members of the Labour Party involved. Many, especially in the trade unions, are very warm towards our message that we don't want these PFI schemes."
VAL PEARMAN, a worker at the British Library in London, gives a sense of the enthusiasm for the demonstration:
"THE PCS union in London has just booked a coach and on the first day that people knew about it there were block bookings for tickets. The Public Records Office at Kew said they wanted 12 seats. I'm very confident we will fill the bus. We know what privatisation means. We have already seen the jobs of security staff, cleaners and others wrecked by market testing. There is a rally in central London on 25 September against privatisation with our general secretary elect, Mark Serwotka. We are tackling head-on the Blair philosophy which means that ordinary people's conditions are eroded while the rich benefit."
The postal worker
The whole room wants to get on the coach
KEN PENFOLD is a postal worker in Woodford, east London. His office has recently been involved in a dispute over bonuses. At a meeting to discuss the latest offer from management Ken raised the Brighton demonstration:
"I SAID that we should also be talking about privatisation because this is a real and immediate threat to postal workers. There was a real feeling that we had to talk about this, and the union executive member who was addressing the meeting agreed as well. So I said what the government was doing and how we need activity to get moving on the issue. I said the demonstration was a chance to let Tony Blair feel what we felt and let him know that we will fight privatisation in any form. I got a tremendous response. I've never felt so popular! The local union rep proposed that I should go to the Brighton demo as an official delegate from the branch. He asked if there was a seconder for that idea. Well, it was like a competition. The whole room were trying to get their hands up first. If there had been a coach to Brighton outside the meeting the whole room would have got on it! I won't get everyone to come down, but I'm determined there will be ten or 15 of us. We'll march with a CWU banner and some placards. We're contacting all the other offices in the area and arranging to leaflet them about the demo. I'd really urge every CWU branch to discuss this protest. We are in the frontline of the private sector coming into public services. It's time to get active and to unite with other people who want to teach Blair a lesson."
OTHER POSTAL workers' delegations coming to Brighton include Exeter. Six CWU members have already pledged to attend, and are organising to get more of their workmates to come.